My husband may not be happy that I’m sharing this but getting him to go to the doctor is like dragging a toddler out of Disney World at the end of a long day. He doesn’t kick and scream, (ok, he doesn’t cry either) but he puts up fierce resistance. He comes up with a variety of excuses, most frequently that he is too busy. While it’s true that he’s incredibly busy, it has been hard to convince him that delaying care for health concerns will only make things worse and that an ER visit or hospitalization will take much more time than a preventive visit or getting a problem checked out early in its course.
It turns out my hubby is not alone. Cleveland Clinic surveyed 502 men between the ages of 18-70 about their health habits and found that 7% of men NEVER go to the doctor, only 3 in 5 men go to the doctor for a routine check-up, and 42% go to the doctor only when they fear they have a serious medical condition.
So why don’t men go to the doctor?
According to a 2016 survey conducted by Orlando Health, the top 3 reasons cited by men for not going to the doctor are:
- They’re too busy.
- They fear that the doctor may find a serious problem.
- They don’t like getting uncomfortable exams (like the prostate exam).
The consequences of this behavior are sobering—the average life expectancy for men is shorter and men are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, and many other illnesses when compared to women. While these trends cannot be solely attributed to the fact that men avoid seeing the doctor, delays in care certainly play a role.
But the news is not all bad. As a professional health advocate, I focus on solutions that help individuals navigate the healthcare system. While there are several ways to facilitate men seeking medical care, an obvious and often overlooked solution is to engage the women in their lives.
If you’re a wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister, mother, aunt, niece, or good friend, you can be the solution to this problem. 19% of men in the Cleveland Clinic survey stated that they went to the doctor so their significant other or loved one would stop nagging them. Let the nagging begin! (Just kidding. See below.)
Women, here are 5 ways you can get the men in your lives to go to the doctor:
Encourage him to go to the doctor.
- This may seem obvious, but it can make a huge difference. In this case, how you say it may be more important than what you say. Put away your nagging voice and in the most supportive and non-judgmental way, talk with him about your concerns. If he’s acutely ill and not getting better, if you’ve noticed he’s just not himself lately, or if a chronic medical problem is being neglected, encourage him to make a doctor’s appointment. Let him know he’s important to you and that you want him to be happy and healthy.
Be his research partner.
- Knowledge is power and without accurate knowledge our minds tend to gravitate toward worst case scenarios. To help combat some of the fears he may have regarding his medical condition, sit beside him and research the symptoms on a reputable medical website. (Cleveland Clinic’s website is one of my personal favorites.) Always vet any information you find on the Internet with the doctor, but this can be a first step toward gaining insight.
Make the appointment for him.
- If your encouragement (remember, don’t nag) doesn’t work and he is still resisting making an appointment after doing some research, consider making the appointment for him. This works best if he is sitting next to you so that you can confirm his availability and provide any additional information regarding symptoms, etc. This may be just the push he needs and will eliminate the first barrier to getting him in the room with the doctor.
Accompany him to the doctor’s appointment.
- The appointment is made, but this doesn’t guarantee he will show up. He may allow other responsibilities to get in the way (remember, he’s very busy) OR he may get a classic case of “cold feet”. If possible, go with him to the doctor. Not only will you be a source of support, but you may be able to fill in gaps regarding the history. When you don’t feel well or when something has been going on for a long time, you tend to forget the details. Also, you can be a second pair of ears to ensure important information provided during the visit is not lost. (For tips on getting the most out of the visit, read “Five Ways to Get Your Doctor to Listen to You” and “3 Questions You Must Ask at Every Doctor Visit”.
Celebrate the victory!
- Going to the doctor for routine check-ups and to investigate active medical concerns are important steps toward creating and maintaining good health. Prevention and early detection can literally mean the difference between life and death, so this is no small feat and it deserves to be celebrated. Tell him how proud you are and let him know you will continue to be there to support him on his health journey.
This article was written in honor of Men’s Health Month, celebrated in the month of June to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.
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